A Good-Natured Riot: The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry
Charles K. Wolfe (Vanderbilt University Press, 1999).Wolfe uses oral histories from the men & women who worked in the wings or at the microphones of the Grand Ole Opry to flesh out the institution that began when Nashville radio station WSM first broadcast Uncle Jimmy Thompson playing old-time fiddle tunes on Nov. 28, 1925.
By the mid-1920s, many traditional musicians had migrated into Nashville from rural areas. Although the music at first met with apparent indifference on the part of many of the city's citizens, the mix of musical talent, an audience, and a demand for this style of music was growing. With the focus provided by the Opry to fill that need, Nashville soon became "the old-time music center," and later the "country music center" that it is today.
Shared Traditions: Southern History & Folk Culture
Charles Joyner (University of Illinois Press, 1999)Joyner brings together sixteen articles in this collection: eight are new, the other half have been published before in one form or another. All of them reflect his life- long interest in the South & the traditional culture of the peoples of the South. The articles range from "rites of power and resistance on the slave plantation to the creolization of language to the musical brew of blues, country, jazz, and rock." This book displays Joyner in the roles of historian, folklorist, and artist. In so doing, it also suggests the complex nature of his ongoing concerns with the interplay and inter- connections between history, culture, and creativity.
Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture
William J. Mahar (University of Illinois Press, 1999)Behind the Burnt Cork Mask is a welcome addition to the literature on the critically important blackface minstrel show of the nineteenth century. Indeed, as Mahar says: "The history of the blackface minstrelsy does not just 'touch' every form of popular music; it is linked to the very formation of antebellum popular culture." Mahar gives us history and analysis in areas that have been little noticed before, such as the strong influence on minstrel shows that derived from a limited number of Italian operas. This is a valuable and thoroughly researched work.
by Rounder Records of early Library of Congress recordings in the
Music of the United States series are two volumes of
ballads. Volume 1, originally released as AFS L1 in 1942
as an LP in 1956, featured ballads recorded in the field by the
(John A., Bess, Alan & Elizabeth), Herbert Halpert, Charles
and others. The present release, Rounder CD #1511, has the added
of an illuminating essay originally written by ethnomusicologist
D. Shirley in 1978, in conjunction with another series of LC
then in progress.
Of the thirteen selections included in this collection of ballads, five are by Virginia singers, E. C. Ball, Horton Barker, and Texas Gladden. Prior to the recordings made of Gladden by either Halpert or the Lomaxes in 1941, a number of selections had been recorded by her for the Virginia Folklore Society; indeed, the picture of her in the record booklet is from the Society's files in Alderman Library, UVA. The Society's aluminum discs of her ballads, along with an illuminated manuscript of "The Devil's Nine Questions" (on this record) commissioned by VFS member Alfreda Peel and featured as the cover of the Society's journal, Volume 4 (1988), are also among the VFS holdings.
Volume two in the series was first released in 1943 as AFS L7, with notes and as edited by Benjamin A. Botkin, former head of the Federal Writer's Project Folklore Program. Reissued as Rounder CD 1516, this record is, if anything, even more indebted than volume one to Virginia singers and to a collector, well-known in the Staunton area, Fletcher Collins, whose fieldwork joins that of Halpert and Alan & Elizabeth Lomax on this disc. Six of the ten "recorded treasures" on this CD are from Horton Barker and Texas Gladden. Another picture of Gladden from the VFS files is included in the booklet, which features Horton Barker on its cover, with several other pictures of him on the inside. In short then, both of these volumes of anglo-american ballads, bear close connections to the Virginia Folklore Society's history and have special significance for its members, though this editor would be the first to emphasize that interest in these two volumes should not end there.
Ridge Songster-Virginia Bluesman- American Legend" and native
John Jackson has recently had two new CDs released. One,
blues ALCD 4867, pictured here, was just released by the
Alligator Records. Of the sixteen cuts on this disc, there is a
of blues, popular, and religious song, and also of sources, which
Jackson's family, Jimmie Rodgers, Rev. Gary Davis, Josh White,
Fuller, and several pieces learned from Leroy Carr and Scrapper
Two of the selections, which Jackson learned from his mother and
are credited as arranged by him; three other songs are attributed
The second release, John Jackson: Country Blues & Ditties is a sentimental and affectionate retrospective issued by Chris Strachwitz, who trusted his initial hearing and taped John Jackson's first-ever album, Arhoolie Record F-1025, the very next day after he first heard him. The cover photo on this album, taken by Strachwitz of a much younger man in a flannel shirt stands in contrast to the older, more polished John Jackson presented on the front of the previous record. There are other, more subtle changes, too, in his music over the years, though it remains as rich and compelling as any vintage product, characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal. Still, there are those among us who appreciate, and may even prefer nostalgically "looking backward" to the earlier performances that foregrounded the success of a phenomenal musician now at the top of his game.
references to traditional music and musicians? You might want
out the following:Folk Music Index. This website is not included
that section is reserved for a more or less permanent listing of
having some broader state, regional, or institutional affiliation
to folklore & folklife, rather than strictly personal
pages tend to reflect the more idiosyncratic interests of their
This site, to some extent, bridges between those poles. Jane
done an extraordinary job in gathering together a considerable
on traditional music & musicians, but be forewarned that
more than a fair share of popular artists and others included,
the boundaries of the category, "traditional". This, however,
her contribution nor the Index's usefulness.
"Founded on April 17, 1913, the Virginia Folklore Society is one of the oldest state folklore societies in the country."
Last updated on August 17, 1999. Contact person for this site is:
Comments & Queries
The Society is happy to receive input relating to folklore/folklife in Virginia, articles for inclusion in future journals, news items, reviews, comments, and suggestions for the Society's website or newsletters. It also welcomes queries and, within the limits of time and ability, will try to provide answers or suggest other possible information sources.
All such requests or materials should be directed by email to: The Virginia Folklore Society or by mail to the Society's address given below.
Donations to the VFS Archives
We suggest that anyone who has any historical, field-recorded or personal collections of folklore or folklife materials in whatever format (that is, manuscripts, books, tapes, records, film, video, photographs, folk art or craft items), please contact the Society's archivist by mail or email to: Charles L. Perdue. Since the Society is a non-profit, educational organization, donations made to it or its archives are eligible for tax exempt consideration.
For a contemporary understanding of the concepts "folklore" and "folklife" and of what constitutes such materials, you may want to search the working definitions included on the Virginia Folklife Program web page.
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